AEG says Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium no good because terrorists could shoot down airplanes from it

In what the Los Angeles Times calls “a bold move to undercut an NFL stadium at Hollywood Park” — “bold” being an adjective usually reserved by journalists for the sort of things done by, say, Vladimir Putin — AEG has attempted to throw a roadblock in the path of St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s proposed Inglewood stadium by getting former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge to write a report that it would be too tempting a terrorist target and should not be built:

In a 14-page report, Ridge suggests that because the Inglewood stadium proposed by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke would lie within three to four miles of Los Angeles International Airport and beneath the flight path of airliners, terrorists might try to shoot down a plane or crash one into the stadium, scenarios Ridge described as “a terrorist event ‘twofer.’ “

Because when terrorists want to shoot down an airplane, the first thing they do is look for an NFL stadium to launch surface-to-air missiles from. It’s easy to bring those in, so long as you put them in a clear plastic bag.

The Times reports that “it is not known how widely AEG distributed the report,” which the paper got from Ridge’s PR firm. NFL vice-president Eric Grubman effectively dismissed its findings, saying, “We feel that the best approach is to look at these things with an independent eye.”

In addition to giving everyone a good laugh, the AEG report should show what we have to look forward to as three different developers and three different NFL owners all circle around the L.A. market, which is full corporate titan smackdown action. Recall that when the owners of Madison Square Garden faced off with the New York Jets owners over a proposed Manhattan stadium, it culminated in a giant ad war, so one can only hope that this will have as entertaining a denouement.

Back nearer to planet Earth, meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders are reportedly looking for a smaller, 55,000-seat stadium in Oakland, which would be more in line with the NFL’s new marketing reality, not to mention with what Raiders owner Mark Davis said two years ago, than an 80,000-seat behemoth in Carson. Not that anybody, including Davis, is proposing how to build such a thing, but it’s a way to get another Raiders stadium story into the paper, so hey, do what you gotta do.

And speaking of getting stadium stories into the paper, consummate NFL insider Peter King has an article at SI.com theorizing that since Kroenke seems to be “the most determined owner to want to move to Los Angeles” (though he hasn’t actually said anything about moving, and has only partnered with a development company in Inglewood on a stadium with unspecified funding) and St. Louis has the most advanced stadium plan (though it has its own problems with mystery funding), maybe the Rams will move to L.A. and then the San Diego Chargers will move in with them and the Raiders will move to a new stadium in St. Louis?

Even King calls this “a virtual sports-talk-show bit of guesswork by me,” but that doesn’t stop him from putting it in print. (And in a pull quote.) Nor does it stop him from writing his entire column with only two people quoted: Grubman and St. Louis stadium plan chief David Peacock, neither of whom say anything other than what you’d expect them to say. (Grubman talks about L.A. having “real momentum,” Peacock says “if we do our job, I can’t imagine 24 votes to approve the Rams moving.”) And now I just wrote almost two paragraphs about this piece of wild speculation, so maybe I’m no better than the rest of them — though at least I reserved the headline for the far more entertaining piece of wild speculation. That’s the defense I’m going with, anyway.

San Diego officials propose bold new Chargers funding plan: Borrow money, pay it back somehow

San Diego county supervisors testified before Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Chargers stadium task force yesterday on ideas for funding a stadium, and man, are they terrible. (The ideas, I mean. Not the supervisors, necessarily.)

  • Supervisor Ron Roberts suggested that the county provide a “bridge loan” that could later be paid back by property and sales taxes on new development around a stadium — tax money that would normally go to the general fund to pay for schools and other public costs associated with new development, but would be instead diverted to repaying stadium loans … somehow. Also, Roberts didn’t indicate how the loan would be repaid if the development didn’t pan out as expected.
  • Another idea, from supervisors chair Bill Horn, was for the county to sell a revenue bond that would be repaid by revenues on … something. (In the inimitable words of U-T San Diego, “no payback source was suggested — though he said there would need to be one.”)

No offense, guys, but it’s not much of a challenge to come up with ways of paying for a stadium that just amount to “Borrow the money, then pay it back somehow.” The not-so-fancy footwork is apparently being inspired by a California law that requires a two-thirds public vote before adding new taxes, a voter threshold that is never going to be cleared for a San Diego stadium, no way, no how. So instead we have local officials trying desperately to think of ways to fund a stadium with existing taxes, which would then need to be made up somehow, and backstopped if they don’t come in sufficiently, and oh it all just makes your head hurt, doesn’t it? I’m starting to understand why Sacramento used an arena financing plan that involved using city parking revenues and then filling in the resulting gap with more city parking revenues and then filling in that resulting gap by shrugging a lot and changing the subject.

Chargers and Raiders say they can copy 49ers’ private stadium financing, but it’s not quite that simple

More information is trickling out about the proposed $1.7 billion San Diego Chargers/Oakland Raiders stadium in Carson, and it adds up to — well, let’s just run it down first, then see what it adds up to:

  • The promised press conference in Carson happened on Friday, and tons of local officials showed up, but no representatives of either team took the stage. (Chargers stadium chief Mark Fabiani was in the audience, but didn’t speak.) No details of how the plan would work were revealed, with one elected official (SFGate didn’t say who) saying, “The financing will work with the revenue generated by the stadium itself. I don’t have all the details. This is about convincing a community that this is a good project.”
  • Fabiani was busy talking up the press elsewhere, telling ESPN’s Aaron Markazi that St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s announced Inglewood stadium was what prompted the Chargers to immediately jump in on a stadium elsewhere in the L.A. area: “We deliberately changed our strategy in the wake of what Kroenke did. When this opportunity to create an alternative came along we decided to seize it.” Fabiani also told Markazi that the Raiders just officially came on board last week.
  • Fabiani told Markazi that the model for the stadium is the San Francisco 49ers‘ $1.3 billion stadium in Santa Clara: “We took the template of the Santa Clara funding mechanisms … so we basically took that and adjusted it for different costs here.” (A Goldman Sachs rep who’s been working on the plan echoed this at the press conference.) He also insisted that the Chargers are prepared to fund the stadium alone if necessary.
  • Regarding the use of NFL G-4 funds for a Carson stadium, NFL VP Eric Grubman told the OC Register, “A stadium project can be eligible for league financing provided the project and its sponsors meet certain criteria. A Carson project would be eligible and could apply if it met those criteria.” Of course, one of the criteria of the G-4 fund is that “the project must not involve any relocation of or change in an affected club’s ‘home territory,'” so either Grubman is saying that the league has changed the criteria, or coyly saying that Carson wouldn’t be eligible, or just ducking the question because he doesn’t want to mess with the teams’ leverage.
  • U-T San Diego reports that San Diego residents hope the team doesn’t move, and more surprisingly, that the newspaper’s headline writers think they’re called “San Diegians.”

So what do we have? Clearly the message the teams are trying to send (or at least Fabiani is trying to send — the Raiders seem to be merely along for the ride) is “the 49ers did this in Santa Clara, so we can do it too.” There are some significant differences, though: First off, the Carson stadium is projected to cost an extra $400 million, something that additional G-4 funding won’t come close to making up, assuming the NFL changes its rules and approves it. Second, L.A. is not Silicon Valley, and the Chargers and Raiders aren’t the 49ers, meaning selling $500 million worth of personal seat licenses to fans, as the 49ers did, is less of a sure thing. And third, the NFL hasn’t committed to waiving relocation fees for teams moving to L.A., which could blow as much as another $500 million hole in the budget.

Probably the best way of looking at the Carson stadium plan is the way this commenter suggested: It’s part negotiating ploy, part fallback plan, and both Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis are hoping that it will shake loose stadium money in San Diego and Oakland and they’ll never have to decide whether to shoot the dog. (Fabiani also spent a fair bit of media time over the weekend shaming San Diego officials about not being as friendly-like as Carson ones.) Grubman’s statement seems calculated to support this tactic: He’s not going to commit to G-4 funding, but he’s not going to rule it out, either.

The big question, then, is: If one or both teams can’t use the Carson threat to get stadium money out of their current home cities, will they really pull the trigger and move? That, we simply don’t know, and won’t until there’s more details revealed about how the Carson stadium money would work, beyond “We’ll have what Santa Clara is having.”

Come to think of it, though, there’s one equally big question: If the Santa Clara stadium’s private financing can be picked up and relocated to Carson, how come it can’t be done in San Diego or Oakland? Yes, L.A. is a bigger market, but market size doesn’t matter that much in the NFL. And as noted above, it comes with a bigger price tag, in both construction cost and relocation fees, than a stadium in the teams’ current homes would.

Good questions for officials, and journalists, in San Diego and Oakland to be asking, anyway. It’s possible to take threats seriously without taking them at face value, and that’s what everybody should be focusing on now. If only to take their minds off of the horror that is this photo:

Chargers, Raiders team up for $1.7B Carson stadium announcement (actual stadium not necessarily included)

Well then:

On the field, the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders have had as bitter a rivalry as any in the NFL but in a sense, they’re now partners.

The teams will officially announce Friday that, while they work on stadium deals in their current cities, they will jointly pursue a shared, $1.7-billion NFL stadium in Carson as an alternative…

The Chargers and Raiders will continue to seek public subsidies for new stadiums in their home markets, but they are developing a detailed proposal for a privately financed Los Angeles venue in the event they can’t get deals done in San Diego and Oakland by the end of this year, according to the teams.

In a statement given to The Times on Thursday, the Chargers and Raiders said: “We are pursuing this stadium option in Carson for one straightforward reason: If we cannot find a permanent solution in our home markets, we have no alternative but to preserve other options to guarantee the future economic viability of our franchises.”

There are two possibilities here: Either this is the biggest NFL stadium news in the history of ever, or Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis just issued a mindbendingly huge bluff. Let’s examine each of the possibilities:

  • It’s for real: $1.7 billion is an awful lot of money to spend out of your own pocket for a stadium, but if you squint, it just might possibly work with two teams sharing the load. The New York Jets and Giants owners managed to build a stadium that cost almost as much on their own dime (mostly), and if Spanos and Davis can piece together, say, $400 million from naming rights, and $800 million from seat license sales (about what the New York teams managed) to fans who don’t notice what lousy investments seat licenses are, and $400 million in NFL G-4 fund money, then that’s … still not quite enough to break even, but it’s in the ballpark, as it were.
  • It’s a bluff: Both Spanos and Davis are having a bad time of it in stadiums talks in San Diego and Oakland, though much of that is their own doing. What better time to announce that you’re moving to L.A., really you are, any day now, if you can’t get a deal done in your hometown, and if the other team also can’t get a deal done in theirs? (The team statements didn’t say what happens to this “stadium option” if one team decides to bail on it.) Actually moving to L.A. would require huge risks: Not only might the PSLs not sell like hotcakes, but the NFL could demand as much as $250 million in relocation fees per team (Spanos and Davis could try to fight it, but that would involve a lawsuit, which again means risk), plus the G-4 fund stipulates that “the project must not involve any relocation of or change in an affected club’s ‘home territory.’” Suddenly you could be looking at a $1 billion funding hole, which ain’t pretty.

There is one other likely reason for Spanos and Davis to announce this now, whether bluff or for real: What with St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke announcing his own maybe-a-bluff-maybe-not stadium in Inglewood last month, and the NFL unlikely to approve more than two teams in the L.A. market (not to mention the L.A. market not likely to support more than two teams at a level sufficient to pay off two stadiums), there’s a bit of a land rush going on now to be the first to stake a claim to the market just so no one else does. Spanos, in particular, really doesn’t want two teams that aren’t his on his Southern California doorstep, so this serves as a bit of a shot across Kroenke’s bow: We’re going to build a stadium but split the price, and we don’t have a stadium offer back home like you do, and do you really want to gamble that the league will approve your plan over ours?

That’s not the worst thing for California taxpayers, frankly, since it means the three owners are so busy trying to outmaneuver each other that they can’t spend as much time and energy trying to exact tribute from local governments. (Chargers and Raiders execs claim that the Carson stadium wouldn’t require any public funds, but we’ve heard that before.) Though the prospect of Spanos and Davis using this as leverage in San Diego and Oakland could be bad news for taxpayers there, of course.

We may know slightly more once the two teams and their Carson development partners hold a press conference this afternoon. (Friday afternoon, the traditional time for dumping news that you don’t want fact-checked too thoroughly: Add that to your conspiracy bucket.) In the meantime, just enjoy the fact that one side of the stadium would apparently look like a giant, translucent, luxury-box-filled shuttlecraft:

Ah, vaportecture, where would we be without you?

Chargers exec, San Diego mayor yell at each other a lot about stadium plans

San Diego Chargers stadium czar Mark Fabiani is mad about who Mayor Kevin Faulconer has on his Chargers stadium task force, and Faulconer is mad that Fabiani is being “divisive,” and you can go read it all if you really want, but all you need to understand is that the two sides are bickering angrily in public, so they’re probably not arranging a stadium deal in the immediate future. If you want to use this to jump to conclusions that the Chargers really want to move to L.A. before everyone else does, go for it, everyone else will anyway. Or you can just take the opportunity to make some Simpsons jokes, which is more entertaining and at least as enlightening.

And speaking of L.A., I just noticed the Los Angeles Times had a mention that Stan Kroenke’s proposed stadium in Inglewood would cost $1.5 billion and “a clear, retractable roof … and open-air sides.” Accompanied by a rendering that shows a roof that has no machinery for retracting, and no open-air sides. Stadium planners will just say anything, man.

Most new stadiums can’t even pay their own construction bills; pass it on

U-T San Diego (the stupidly rebranded former San Diego Union-Tribune) may have fired its best sports columnist and be owned by a guy who thinks journalists should be cheerleaders for stadium deals, but I may have to rethink my evaluation that it’s not a real newspaper anymore. Yesterday, business columnist Dan McSwain wrote an excellent analysis of why new stadiums are so often money-losing propositions:

Let’s start with what we do know: The Spanos family, which owns the Chargers, wants a new stadium costing about $1 billion.

On the bright side, interest rates are low. The annual payment would be about $80 million, assuming a 20-year loan at 5 percent interest…

In a 2004 presentation, the Chargers estimated that a new stadium at the Qualcomm site in Mission Valley would boost the team’s “local revenue” by $15 million a year.

A fresh estimate by John Vrooman, a sports economist at Vanderbilt University, put the gross increase at $50 million (some would indirectly go to players via league revenue sharing).

At $15 million or $50 million, either figure is a long way from covering $80 million in new costs, let alone boosting profits. This may explain why the Spanos family hasn’t simply built a stadium itself by now, after 13 years of occasional pleas for public help.

Let that sit in your head for a minute. Chargers owner Dean Spanos says he desperately needs a new stadium in order to be economically competitive — a new stadium that would cost 60% more than it brought in in new profits. (There would likely be some help from the NFL’s G-4 fund, but it wouldn’t be enough to fill a $30 million a year gap.) Spanos’ stadium chief Mark Fabiani told McSwain that this is why the team needs public subsidies (“Your calculations do demonstrate the severe and very practical limitations we face in San Diego with regard to private investment on a new stadium”), but another way of looking at it is that a new stadium in itself would actually hurt the Chargers’ bottom line. Or as McSwain put it:

My take-away: The team’s deal at Qualcomm is too good to abandon without hefty public subsidies.

This is possibly the key point to keep in mind when analyzing stadium proposals: With few exceptions (the San Francisco 49ers stadium in Santa Clara comes to mind), the building itself is a money-loser — the team owner only turns a profit thanks to the public subsidies. (If you want another detailed example of this, see Kansas City’s Sprint Center, though there substitute “arena manager” for “team owner.”) This means it would literally be more cost-effective for cities to just hand over a wad of cash to their teams, and skip all of this laundering of subsidies through a billion-dollar construction project that nine times out of ten will be awash in red ink.

There is nothing wrong with new stadiums and arenas per se — well, unless you think they’re ugly, but plenty of old ones are, too. But the reason the U.S. has so many of them, and is tearing down its not-quite-as-new ones to replace them with shinier models as fast as possible, has nothing to do with the alleged riches that can be made off of them, and everything to do with the fact that in order to get those fat checks from the public treasury, you need to be able to present a giant construction bill as justification. If we could only start subsidizing something useful instead — say, rules changes to prevent concussions, or better mascots — there would still be a massive transfer of money from the public to a bunch of rich dudes, but at least we might get something out of the bargain other than fancier cupholders.

[UPDATE: Neglected to mention that UT-San Diego also has a new poll of local residents on a Chargers stadium, and they oppose using taxpayer funds by a 63-29% margin. (A slightly lesser majority opposes “tax breaks” for a stadium, because some people think tax breaks aren’t taxpayer funds somehow?) NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, meanwhile, chimes in that “they do need a new stadium for the Chargers to be successful long-term.” Same as it ever was…]

Do Chargers have secret deal with Goldman Sachs to build L.A. stadium? (SPOILER: no)

So on a podcast on Friday, a St. Louis radio reporter who covers the Blues said this about a San Diego Chargers stadium, for some reason:

“Spanos from the Chargers has a deal in place with Goldman-Sachs to build a new stadium and the NFL has asked him to hold off from accouncing those plans,” Strickland said, citing St. Louis officials.

Whoa, that’s news! Strickland also said he thought the stadium deal was in L.A., not San Diego, and you know what, let’s stop right there, because though the Strickland report was soon all over the news, immediately thereafter this was:

[Chargers general counsel Mark] Fabiani told 10News Friday night, “The story is untrue. Nothing to it, except that we have worked for years with Goldman Sachs. But the rest of the story is incorrect.”

Now, team execs can lie, of course, but usually they temper their words a bit more when they do so. And the idea that the Chargers have a secret stadium deal in place that has gone unnoticed by everyone except a St. Louis hockey reporter is … let’s just say I’ll believe it when I see it.

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, U-T San Diego actually does some reporting today that could be construed as critical of the Chargers’ stadium plans, or at least skeptical that the team can get them funded: Fabiani has talked of raising hotel taxes to help pay for a stadium, but the hotel owners hate the idea, it would take a two-thirds vote to approve it, and the last time a referendum was attempted on hiking hotel taxes, it only got 41.6% of the vote. And that was to hike hotel taxes to fund police and firefighters, not a stadium. I guess it’s pretty hard to find a “cheerleader” spin on facts like that.

 

Chargers to SD mayor: We don’t want your stinking stadium if we have to work with your convention center guy

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer included in his State of the City speech last week a statement that a new Chargers stadium was “vital” and promised to have a proposal done by the end of the next football season — so, naturally enough, Chargers stadium czar Mark Fabiani responded by attacking Faulconer for “punting” on the stadium plan. Why on earth? Because Faulconer didn’t replace the head of his convention center expansion effort:

Fabiani said at the first meeting with Mayor Faulconer’s staff in March that the Chargers asked for Steve Cushman to not have any involvement in the process.

“Our view is that Cushman has been a consistent impediment to the Chargers getting a stadium deal done,” Fabiani said. “And I won’t bore you with all of the history, although I’m happy to go into it if you want. So that’s the one thing that we asked him not to do, and that’s exactly what he did. The mayor mentioned in his speech last night that Steve would continue to be involved in the convention center.”

Fabiani continued, in an “interview” on the Chargers’ own website:

If you were going to line up the people in San Diego who have done the most to block a new stadium over the years, there is no doubt that Steve Cushman would be near the head of that line. When the Chargers were exploring the Chula Vista bayfront as a stadium location, Cushman told the Chargers to stay away so that the Gaylord Project could move forward. Of course, under Cushman’s leadership, no such project was ever built. When the Chargers were exploring a joint-use stadium/convention center facility downtown, Cushman again told the Chargers to stay away because of the contiguous convention center expansion plan. Again, under Cushman’s leadership, the courts decisively invalidated the financing plan for the convention center project. And when some in the community wanted to explore Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal as a stadium location, Cushman pushed through a ban on everyone at the Port of San Diego from even so much as discussing the issue. The fact that Mayor Faulconer has now assigned Steve Cushman — the architect of so many of San Diego’s civic failures — to work on the stadium is discouraging.

KUSI has a bit more detail on the backstory here, which is that Cushman, a longtime member of the San Diego Convention Center board, is fixated on building a stadium directly adjacent to an expanded convention center, which the Chargers don’t want to be locked into.* (I’ll actually agree with that, as the utility of a football stadium as space for conventions is pretty darn near zero.) Still, this is a pretty historic bit of gift-horse-mouth-looking on the Chargers’ part to slam an open-ended new stadium offer by objecting to a guy who isn’t even likely to be on the mayor’s stadium task force. Though maybe this is a way of ensuring that he won’t be? Or that Fabiani doesn’t have to be seated with Cushman at any city functions? I think it’s a pretty good guess that that’s ensured now, anyway.

*UPDATE: Heywood Sanders points out that the KUSI article was a bit unclear on why Fabiani objected to Cushman: The convention center chief does want an adjacent expansion, but not specifically one that can double as a football stadium. Fabiani is trying to sell a stadium three blocks away as an expansion to the convention center, which is a pretty dumb rationale, for the reasons stated above. Sorry for any misconstruing.

SD mayor vows “good and fair deal” to subsidize Chargers stadium

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer gave his State of the City speech yesterday, and make clear that he wants citizens to know that he’s committed to throwing money at the Chargers for a new stadium, but not throw it, you know, too wildly:

Delivering his first “State of the City” address, Faulconer said he would assemble a group of civic leaders to recommend a location either in Mission Valley or downtown and a financing plan that is “a good and fair deal for San Diego taxpayers.” He said he would then seek voter approval.

“At no point in San Diego’s history has the possibility of the Chargers moving to Los Angeles been more real,” he said. “When the next season ends, we’ll be talking about the proposal to keep them here where they belong.”…

“Both the stadium and convention center are vital to San Diego,” he said. “Together or separately, we can get both done.”

You know what they say about negotiations: The most important thing is to say up front that it’s “vital” for you to see the project happen, because then you eliminate any leverage to walk away if the price tag gets too expensive. (Editor’s note: They don’t actually say that.)

Nobody’s moving to L.A., so now can we talk about that Raiders lease extension?

This week in “Which NFL teams are moving to L.A. in 2015?” rumors, we have … nobody!

Per “sources,” yes, but Schefter is reporting it as fact, and the NFL isn’t denying it, so this certainly has the whiff at least of official leak. And the San Diego Chargers did already announce that they’re staying put for 2015, which they likely wouldn’t have done if there were any chance of teams going to L.A., and besides there’s just about zero chance of an L.A. stadium deal getting done in time for a relocation announcement by February. So, really, I’m confident we can stick a fork in this for now, and stop with all the rumor-mongering about who’s headed to—

Fox Sports 1 Insider Jay Glazer reports the NFL is waiting to get better offers for stadium sites around Los Angeles, with St. Louis Rams clear front-runner to come to city.

Yo! Jay! Stand down, already!

In related news, the Oakland Raiders are apparently set to announce a one-year extension of their lease at the Oakland Coliseum, which is a bit weird, as I’m pretty sure that the Coliseum Authority would have to sign off on that as well — and would be perfectly within their rights to tell Mark Davis to take his team and go play in the street if he doesn’t agree to a multiyear extension. This one is worth watching closely, or would be if everyone could stop playing “Who’s moving to the imaginary L.A. stadium first?”